Saturday, May 19, 2018

Statements of Lawrence Yates Sherman on Fiume

Here we have the statements of Lawrence Yates Sherman, a United States senator who spoke before the U.S. Congress on August 4, 1919, on the Italianity of Fiume and Fiume's right to join Italy:
Passing north along the shore line the Istrian Peninsula suggests the port city of Fiume, the storm center of controversy at the peace conference.
Anciently Fiume was a part of Venice. In the age of that city's commercial glory, when she commanded respect by her wealth and power, Fiume dwelt in the overflow of her plenty and magnificence. She continued Italian until the Corsican, wielding the military strength of France, became the dispenser of thrones and gave territory to his military allies. Napoleon delivered Fiume with certain adjacent country to Austria. It remained a possession of the dual empire until Austria-Hungary toppled with Wilhelm II to defeat. When the London treaty of 1915 was concluded the dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian Empire was not foreseen. The results of such a division of territory were not undertaken to be anticipated. Fiume was a part of Hungary. It therefore, with the change in spirit and effect, has become a part of Italy's guaranteed frontier if she is to be protected on her Adriatic boundary as France is to be guaranteed against German aggression by the provisions of the treaty respecting the Rhine and the limitation on fortified posts. If France is given Alsace-Lorraine, Italy ought to have restored to her her Italia irredenta and be given Fiume, as her people ask.
Anciently Hungary was composed—down to the time of this treaty—of Hungary proper, of Croatia, of Fiume, and the adjacent district appurtenant to and subject to the free city of the earlier days of Fiume. Various smaller countries, including Croatia-Slavonia, are created into the Jugo-Slovakia State. If there is anything in self-determination, the city of Fiume, 75 per cent Italian, belongs to Italy and ought by simple justice alone to have been given her by the treaty agreed upon at the Paris conference. The various racial and political elements of the Jugo-Slavic government can not be fused into a homogeneous unit by a mere decree of the Paris conference. No covenant of the league of nations will obliterate the ancient feuds that have divided and reddened the Danube Provinces from Belgrade to Salonika. Tranquillity on Italy's Adriatic border, she knows full well, is not secured by the league of nations fiat. Italy takes counsel of human experiences. Her history reaches through many centuries. Her experiences with the nations of Europe abundantly justify her in asking adequate security for her boundary lines now. Since 1915 she can not forget that Croatian soldiers under Austrian colors fought Italian troops savagely. The Croatian forces carried spiked war clubs that would have done honor to a native of equatorial Africa or a Modoc Indian in North America. Italy knows the character of her eastern Danube Province neighbors. She believes in the peace league, as we do, and in adequate guaranties, as France believes, as evidenced by the treaty now pending in this Chamber... She has no faith that the Jugo-Slav State is so constituted that Italy will be well able to defend her frontiers unless the security claimed is given.
Fiume is the port city of the northeastern Adriatic. It is the converging point for the trade of the eastern interior. Its prospects for commercial importance are encouraging, and, with the blessings of peace, it will gather to itself commercial strength. The city is Italian in blood, language, and tradition. Italia irredenta from the Trentino to the south shore of Dalmatia is at least 65 per cent Italian by the ordinary tests applied in race analyses. Fiume in December, 1918, had a total population of 46,264, with 35,000 Italians. The vote of its people praying for union with Italy, taken October 30, 1918, less than two weeks before the armistice was signed, declared by an emphatic majority for that amalgamation. Self-determination, which has been a favorite solution of the problem on the lips of others, is invoked by Italy in vain. President Wilson turned a deaf ear to Italy, and Great Britain and France, somewhat relieved to have our Government assume responsibility, silently acquiesced. I should like to have seen Lloyd-George's face when he acquiesced or allowed it to pass unchallenged. I believe if he could have been observed, the honest Welshman would have been seen to blush.
Therefore Italy is told she can not profit by secret treaties for which she has paid the price in blood and a supreme good faith in keeping Italian national honor. She loses a commercial port and a naval base by a single stroke of the Wilson pen. Her northeastern defenses against future enemies are untenable under the settlement made by the Paris conference. A few days ago Croatia rebelled against her status in the new government. She demanded independence. The revolt was quelled, it is true, but its population is restless. There is no guaranty to Italy of stable conditions on her northeastern Adriatic shore, with Fiume in other hands.
... The new Jugo-Slav Republic is an experiment. ... Fiume is not the natural seaport for the larger part of this region. The cities east and southeast, more than a dozen in number, with over 500 miles of coast line, give access to the sea. Among these ports are Spalato and Cattaro. Both these ports are reached by railway connecting with Bosnia, Herzegovina, Slavonia, Serbia, and the hinterland. It is claimed this region of the Jugo-Slav State requires Fiume for the passage of its commerce. The groundlessness of this contention is exposed by showing that only 13 per cent of the imports and exports passed through Fiume before the war, while Croatia, the adjacent Province to Fiume, sent only 7 per cent of her entire imports and exports through this entrance to the Adriatic.
Fiume has been a separate body politic, annexed, however, to the Hungarian Crown. It has not been a part of Croatia. The Hungarian Parliament in 1868 declared the right of Fiume, the city, the harbor, and the district to be such. Croatia on November 15, 1868, by its Diet, after full debate, accepted the Hungarian law, declaring Fiume a separate municipality or district by an almost unanimous vote. That vote has never been repealed or otherwise reversed.
It seems idle for Croatia and her Jugo-Slav associates now to set up claims to the city. Fiume is not only traditionally Italian, but her blood, customs, and soil have been Italian in act or spirit for centuries. While annexed to Hungary it was an artificial union, brought about by military force, which has never extirpated the Italian character. Therefore Italy is justified, when the Austro-Hungarian artificial jurisdiction founded upon force is destroyed as a result of the war, in asking to resume the natural relations subsisting between Fiume and the mother country.
Shantung is given Japan pursuant to a secret treaty exacted by the latter power in 1917 and notes of 1915 and 1918. It was the price of Japan's permission to China to declare war with the Allies and a part also of the price of Japan's nominal participation in the war. Japan's sacrifices are unworthy of mention with those of Italy. She watched the progress of the great war with an eye somewhat single to her own advantage. Her military forces fought the German in Shantung to seize the proceeds of Germany's robbery of China. Neither international law nor the new code of international morals based on the condemnation of secret treaties can justify the plunder of China. The league of nations and the peace treaty will be condemned by the impartial historian for the sanction of this flagrant crime. President Wilson brands his denunciation of secret treaties with insincerity when he refuses Fiume to Italy, after her heroic sacrifices, and in obedience to secret treaties delivers Shantung to Japan, despite her course of studied selfishness in the Great War.
... With Fiume handed over to the league of nations as a mandatory trust to be administered by four or five out of the nine on the council, or in the hands of a weaker nation with no foreign commerce, and especially under the provisions of the treaty, Great Britain's influence in that port will be paramount. That is a fort of her far-seeing policy. If I were an Englishman I would not criticize it, but as an American I do. I believe it to be part of her coming struggle to control the merchant shipping and the foreign commerce of Europe, as she has done for many centuries. Her people, she being at home an island empire, are a sea-faring people. The flag of her merchant shipping goes to the ports of every country. Both her regular lines of shipping and her tramp steamers are found wherever there is a commerce to gather. Following her well-known disposition therefore to take care of her commerce, to gather into her treasury and into her markets all that there is in Europe and in the Far East, she looks with an eye single to her own advantage upon the placing of Fiume in the hands of the league of nations to be administered under four-year limitations, with a vague promise that some time in the future it will be returned to Italy. As the Senator from New Hampshire suggests, with Italy in control, with Fiume an Italian port, Italy would have the advantage and not the British Empire; and this is where we, acting under the lead of our President, are expected to pull the British chestnuts out of the Commercial fire of the future.
... Italy is practically ignored in the material benefits apportioned to the Allies in the treaty. The reparation commission is controlled by those who inflict upon her this humiliation. England and France are the large beneficiaries of German indemnities. Italy is excluded. There can be no reply to her modest claims, fortified by the wish of the people of Fiume to be returned to their own people. It is no compensation to reply that Fiume is to be converted into a mandatory city, held by the league or some of the principal member powers. Like Shantung, to delay is to deny. If it can not be given now to Italy, if ingratitude manifests itself at this early stage, it will mature into open hostility at the end of any given period when Italy claims, by the self-determination of the people and her own rights, the annexation of the city.
—Lawrence Yates Sherman, Congressional Record: Proceedings and Debates of the 66th Congress of the United States of America, August 4, 1919